Jun 21, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : The Journey Begins (Day 1 - 17 May 2012)

I could feel the excitement charging through my whole body as my biological clock nudged me from my dream at 8 in the morning. The bright lit window and creeping warmth on my bed welcomed me to another brand new day. It was the day where I was going to step foot in Kota Kinabalu, the land of Borneo, where different cultures and adventures await. I slid to the side of the bed and felt my feet on the wooden flooring, my heart was screaming ecstatically and my steps quicken at the sheer joy. By 10 in the morning, I was out to meet my love and to finish our packing before our flight at 7.10pm.

Medicine, checked! Luggage, checked! We were ready to start our adventure at a land where I wasn't familiar of. I called Public Cab for a taxi to pick us up at 3.30pm. The booking was smooth at the first place. However, when the time came, our taxi was nowhere to be found. Frustrated we were, I called again and the receptionist promised to get back to me, which she did not. At 3.50pm, I decided to call Sunlight. 5 minutes later I received an SMS confirming my booking number and the distance of our taxi. I was impressed, but that 1.3km as stated in the SMS was another long wait. By 4pm, our taxi from Public Cab arrived and we boarded without hesitation. The total fare was approximately RM24, inclusive of extra charge for booking. In short, I wasn't happy with their services, both Public Cab and Sunlight.

The moment we reached KL Sentral, we sprinted whole heartedly, in fear of missing the bus at 4.30pm. We struggled through the evening crowds for a minute and two until we saw the idling red huge bus, inscribed by the word "Skybus". We placed our luggages in the designated area and went into the cosy bus with full blown air condition. It was such a bliss after all the sweat and hassle we had been through. After being stationary for approximately 10minutes, our Skybus had finally kickstarted our journey to LCCT.

Ah, finally some music for me!

The journey to LCCT from KL Sentral took us 1 hour and 15 minutes while we chilled and enjoyed ourselves in the Skybus. If you were to give me choices between driving to LCCT, taxi to LCCT or Skybus, I would surely choose the last. "Why not?" would be my default answer. You could travel between KL Sentral and LCCT (both ways) at ease for just RM14.40. I listened to Lana Del Rey again and again and I must admit that "I am addicted!". No one sang like her and she is just captivating that way. My another half was busy editing picture on his MacBook Air and at times, I distracted him and annoyed him :D

Look at his "sien" face *chuckle*

We reached LCCT around 6pm, which is an hour and ten before our flight and 40 minutes before last call for boarding. Skybus was doing a pretty good job in ensuring it reached at the specified time period. However you should be early, just in case the taxi gave you a big headache, and then you missed the bus you wanted! There was only one thing that I found it pretty annoying. The last few times I took Skybus, they gave us tickets upon showing the breakdown of your AirAsia itinerary but it was the other way this time. I showed the ticketing guy my itinerary twice, once before I boarded and another when we were about to get off. Maybe he or Skybus should just give the damn tickets. *Annoyed*

Once we got off from Skybus, we located our luggages in the pile and pushed our trolley to the check in area. Gosh, it was like "Amazing Race". I skipped a step by checking in for both of us using AirAsia iPhone apps few days before 17 May 2012. We headed straight to the printing machine and scanned the barcode to get our boarding passes printed. Personally I find both checking in and printing were quite a jiffy! Without further ado, we walked towards the baggage check in counter and deposited them. A good 26kg for two luggages but fear not, we bought 40kg for RM60 in advance, in view of the gears that we were about to bring over to Kota Kinabalu. It took the lady 5minutes or so to complete the process, which was pretty acceptable. Oh, for domestic flight, the airport authority is not very strict on the amount of liquid you bring on board, even though the stated limit is 50ml per bottle. I brought my 600ml water bottle to the plane too!

Phewwww, now that we had our luggages checked in. It was time to fix our tummy before we landed in Kota Kinabalu like two starving zombies! Considering the fact that we were going to have our proper dinner once we landed, we decided to have a Boost to fill us up for an hour or two. I had Raspberry Ripe, which is one of the low fat smoothies from Boost Juice Bar. Loaded with chocolate, raspberries, coconut milk, low-fat milk or soy, TD4 low-fat strawberry yoghurt, sorbet & ice, I must say I love this very much. In fact, it is better than King William Chocolate! Their imported yoghurt is the key factor in an excellently smooth smoothies and it is way beyond what Juiceworks can deliver. In short, good stuff!

Filled with antioxidants and live cultures, this was my awesomely healthy low fat Raspberry Ripe.

By the time we were done with our Boost juice, it was about time to board the plane. The gates would be closed 20 minutes before the flight time so to be safe, make sure you reach on time. We went through the scanning test and fumbled with our gadgets and bags and finally we saw the crowds lining up at our gate. Instead of pushing with one another, we decided to go when most of them were gone. The boarding took us 10 minutes or so as the crowds moved to fill up the designated seats, deposit their hand carries to the compartment (which slows down most of us). To prevent unnecessary disappointment, we bought the specific seats we wanted at less than RM10 per seat.

AirAsia, the world's best low-cost airlines; I must say it is, to me, but in Malaysia as I have never been overseas.

The flight took off without much difficulties and the journey was a smooth one. I spent my time attempting practice questions for my coming CFA Level II exam in 3rd of June while my love slept throughout the journey, just like what most passengers onboard did. Apart from the humming of the engines, I was in solitary with my scribbling and train of thoughts. The flight was 2 hours and 35 minutes but we landed slightly later as the traffic at Kota Kinabalu airport, KKIA Terminal 2 was quite congested.

The KKIA Terminal 2 was much smaller than LCCT but the navigation was simpler. Right after we got down from our plane, we headed to the immigration counter. All you need to do is show your IC and in return you will get a 3-month pass in Kota Kinabalu. We collected our luggages at the baggage area and immediately hopped onto a taxi parked right in front of the exit right after we grabbed a taxi coupon. It was a 7 seater Avanza with plenty of space for two of us. The taxi driver was very helpful with the luggages and being efficient too. After less than 10 minutes drive, we arrived at City Park Lodge.

City Park Lodge is a budget hotel which is strategically located at Jalan Pantai, Kota Kinabalu, where you could walk to few restaurants that you must try. We carried the luggages up to the first floor to the check in counter. I still remembered warmth and humidity at the counter as it was not air conditioned at all times. We booked a standard double window room with a queen bed for RM80 per night and got ourselves a room located at 3rd floor. It was then we realised we made a wrong move to stay here as we had to carry the 26kg luggages up and down! So if you were to stay in a budget hotel, try to find one with lift!

Our standard double room with window for RM80 per night

The room was very tight with just enough walking space only. The door opened to a washroom on the right and what you saw in the picture above. Tight tight tight! By the time we were in the room, our first idea was let's get FOOD! We surveyed a few places but the most feasible choice was to have Bak Kut Teh at Yu Yee at Gaya Street, which is just the street behind the budget hotel.

2 bowls of pork ribs or pai kuat with the rest being served without instruction

We ordered only two bowls of pork ribs. What came first was the teapot with free chinese tea, then the mains with rice, soup, you tiao and tao pok. My another half commented that this must be the culture here and I wouldn't beg to differ. Things do work a little different here. The pork rib was very lean and smooth but a little too boney; the soup was slightly bitter than what I usually have but the sensation of hot and spices to wash down our throats after our "amazing race" was totally heartwarming. The greedy us asked for more and more soup before we left. The you tiao and tao pok weren't something to shout about. The only thing I noticed was they were very gracious with their chopped garlic. All you need to do is ASK for more. The total damage was RM17 for two and the outcome was two bloated but happy fellas.

After we de-zombified ourselves, we went around looking for Maybank as I needed to withdraw to pay for our Mount Kinabalu trip. Guess what, it is just at Jalan Pantai, around the corner from the Yu Yee! Next, we headed to 7 Eleven, which was opposite Maybank, to grab water. It is very convenient to live in the city, don't you think so?

It was almost 12am by the time we headed back. Good thing was the hot shower in City Park Lodge was top class for a budget place. The pump was so powerful that I enjoyed my private "massage" as I cleaned myself for a good night sleep. Toilet was clean and easy to move around, the only thing to improve was the placement of hooks.

All of you must be tired. Good night and have a good sleep! We shall wake up to 18 May 2012 in few days time.

Jun 8, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Travelogue : Gearing Up!

The post on Villa Danieli marked my absence for a month and a week. Life has been hectic but I must say, "Hectic life is good!". I have been busy preparing for my Chartered Financial Analyst ("CFA") Level II exam for past few months and not forgetting, my one week escapade to Kota Kinabalu, where the mighty Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Malay Archipelago, has rested upon.

The planning for the legendary trip started 6 months back in 2011, where 10 of us had mustered our guts to conquer the highest terrain in Malaysia. We managed to get a dirt cheap climbing package from  Horizon Borneo for RM700; so cheap that most people would just jump and say "Deal!". What I did not expect was the ensuing shopping duty, of which I was stunned at the extra costs we would be spending on those supplementaries. Wind proof and winter jacket and pants, long john, beanie, gloves, and hiking shoes... Can I just jump and shout like a mad woman?

Luckily Marcky's friend was kind enough to bring back two sets of The North Face's replica jacket and pants for us from Vietnam. Replica equals to cheap, cheap equals to happy! Can you imagine paying RM800 for The North Face real jacket and pants? I have gotten my wool long john from Winter Time for RM170, beanie and gloves from Universal Travel for RM60, and Columbia hiking shoes for RM282 (20% off price tag - 10% for last piece, another 10% for normal discount).

Gears ready! How about fitness? Most people would say "GOSH! I can't do this." but there were 6 months for me to train and hell no, I would make it! Fitness First, The Curve has since became my most loyal companion; you need not to be training alone, you need not to worry about where and when to train. All you need to do is to head to the gym and pump up your body strength (Body Pump classes or free weights), train your stamina (RPM and Body Attack classes).  Sounds easy? Provided you are willing to wake up at 6am and head to gym by 7am for morning classes, or reject all the evening plans you have and go to nowhere but gym. Who did that? The answer is none other than yours sincerely :)

Two weeks before the climb, I went to the extent of being paranoid because I was on leave and thus gym was not a feasible choice. Instead of gulping on my guilt, my mind drove me to head to Batu Caves and climb that 252 staircases, which is located less than 3km from my house. I climbed 3 rounds for the first time, 5 rounds for the second time, which would sum up to 1500 and 2500 steps respectively.

View from the entrance to Batu Caves

To pump my body further, I decided on a day to go to office tower and climb the staircases; 12 floors, 5 rounds, which should come up to about 3500 steps. The sense of achievement was strong but the followings few days, my calves were suffering until I had 5-6 protein shake to assist in my muscle recovery. I believe all these had somehow contributed to my agility in the climb. I am not complaining :D

Sleep tight and more posts on my Kota Kinabalu Travelogue shall unroll <3

Yours sincerely,

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